• Prescription for disaster

    by Kelvin Wade

    As I lay on the sidewalk, I didn’t know how badly I’d been injured. It happened so quickly. I remembered casually standing in the car doorway reaching in to release the parking brake unaware that the car was in reverse. Immediately the van began rolling down the driveway with my 3 year old grandson in his car seat in the back and my 11 year old granddaughter Lauryn in the front seat.

    I’d tried to stop the vehicle grabbing it, trying to plant my feet, to summon up some Herculean strength to keep the car from rolling out into the street out of my control. But I’m not the Hulk. We were in the street now with the car still rolling.

    “Lauryn, hit the brake!” I called.

    In a flash, my granddaughter had unbelted her seatbelt and reached down to the floor. I saw her hand press the accelerator. How does a 10 year old know which is the brake? I thought I was dead.

    The car door knocked me over a parked car and I landed hard on the sidewalk with the bottom of the car door slashing my leg open. The van rolled to a halt in my across the street neighbor’s front yard. While I thought I came away from that experience with road rash, bruises and stitches, I also limped away with chronic back pain.

    I’ve been on practically every NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) there is with little success. Last year, my primary care physician sent me to a pain specialist who put me on a low dose of morphine supplemented with Vicodin. I was nervous about being put on such a strong painkiller at first for fear of becoming dependent.

    While, as of this writing, we don’t know what killed singer Whitney Houston, but alcohol and drugs are suspected. She would be the latest in a long line of notable people who’ve lost their lives to prescription drugs and or alcohol. Prescription drugs took the lives of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Jimi Hendriz, Elvis Presley, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy among others. Of course, pop icon Michael Jackson lost his life from abuse of prescription medication.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, more people die from prescription painkillers than cocaine and heroin combined. Deaths from painkillers have tripled in the last decade. And the government says five million Americans abuse painkillers every month.

    But for my purposes here, I’m not writing about the people who are doctor-shopping or buying prescription drugs off the street to get high. I’m talking about those of us who legitimately take pain medication and anti-anxiety pills. It’s surprisingly easy for regulated drug use to spiral out of control.

    Many insurance companies would rather pay for drugs than physical therapy which could help some sufferers of chronic pain. Pills are easier.

    One of the reasons for this alarming increase in deaths is there’s a false sense of security with prescription drugs. They’re prescribed by doctors and we trust their expertise. When I’m taking Vicodin on top of morphine, I feel confident because I’m under the care of two doctors. But I stay alert to things like drug interactions.

    Also, over time, patients develop a tolerance for narcotics. Those few pills aren’t as effective anymore. I’ve noticed that and immediately talked with my pain specialist about it. We’re monitoring it.

    Consider the case of R&B singer Gerald LeVert. He was prescribed Vicodin and Percocet to deal with chronic pain from a shoulder problem and surgery on a severed Achilles tendon. He was also on the anti-anxiety medication Xanax. Feeling under the weather, he took some over the counter antihistamines and went to bed on November 9, 2006. He never woke up.

    One can see how taking prescription medications, having wine with dinner or drinks watching a ballgame and then popping a couple of Benadryls could land a person in trouble. I know people who take their meds with wine regularly.

    Prescription drugs are ground zero in the nation’s drug problem. For those of us who rely on them, they’re a godsend. They enable us to live relatively normal lives. But we have to remember that just because we’re not snorting, smoking or shooting up drugs doesn’t mean we can’t fall victim to overdose with our pharmaceutical helpers.

    • This column is just chilling. I know people who take Xanax and Benadryl regularly… Holy crap!

        • Debbie

        • February 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm
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        So true Debra…Very sad.
        Always happy to see Kelvin talk about such things that may wake someone up.

      • Judy N

      • February 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm
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      Debra said it–chilling. You’ve probably just saved someone’s life.

        • Debbie

        • February 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm
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        ”Amen Judy,
        It is a good thing to share such truths Kelvin.

    • Well said. You’ve made me think and that’s not easy.

    • Kelvin, so sorry this happened to you. Have you tried pain management with injections using an epidural to ease the pain to get off the actual pills? I know for some people this is lasting relief after just one epidural and others who use acupuncture and other things less lethal than prescription drugs. Laser light is another great one for pain. Hope you feel better and can free yourself from drugs that eventually stop working and then need to be increased and increased. There are so many good alternatives out there. I always go eastern first before Western pills.

      • Kelvin

      • February 27, 2012 at 7:18 pm
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      Thank you. I know several people who wash down their painkillers with wine. Real danger sets in when someone is having respiratory problems (undiagnosed phneumonia) and tries to treat their symptoms on their own. Central nervous system depressant after central nervous system depressant can send one on to that eternal slumber.

      I’m open to alternatives. I’m not someone who likes taking pills. Doctors giving me the wrong pills or without adequate follow up have almost killed me twice. The last time i ended up in the ICU in 2009 with kidney failure because of drug interactions. Debra has mentioned acupuncture. I’m going to look into that.

        • Debbie

        • February 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm
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        Kelvin,I have many friend that swear by acupunture.

      • Debbie

      • February 27, 2012 at 7:37 pm
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      As always thanks for the share and one thing I must say is that it is so important that people be an Advocate to self as well as educate self in order to stay in control of the care they need.
      I have a condition that involves many symptoms such as pain..all the time…extreame tired and I could go on and on. The meds Doc wants me on are any place from vicoden to moraphine just to start… If I took all meds they want me on at prescibed times etc I would be a slipper surf walker and a danger to all for sure;-( oNE BIG FAVOR MY dOC DID At the start of my diagnossis was send my husband and I to a class with many specialists and others with my condition.. ”All but me of the patients could not pick up the feet to walk and slurred any time they tryed to talk along with many other side effects of the strong drugs…”This was mid day and many arrived from home in slippers and pajamas and looked to have not had a bath in days.Just a few of the alarming things we saw that day from Docs over drugging them.
      I walked out and took all the knowledge I already had from years working in a pharmacy…Went home did more home work and have made it my mission to advocate for myself and others as well as educate self and others on other things to try and keep from the drugged daze of Days…’I do have meds I take at bedtime for my pain and try water therapy .exersize and only take meds that I can drive with like Motrin 800 at day time. It is so sad to get calls from friends who have what I have and they are in bed and not getting up. Overdrugged;-( So hard after they have already gotten to that sad stage. Be safe all and get the facts.

      • Kelvin

      • February 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm
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      Debbie, you bring up a great point. It’s important to educate oneself on anything you’re taking. And it’s important to advocate for oneself but it’s often difficult to do. People generally defer to their doctors, especially when they’re in pain. They just want something to help. What I’ve found that works is having my girlfriend involved. I have an advance directive and medical power of attorney on file so Cathi can talk to my doctors about any aspect of my treatment. It really helps to have a second person there who can remember to ask the questions that you might forget to ask. When you’re hospitalized often you’re just not in the physical/mental/emotional space to advocate for yourself so it’s really great to have someone there to advocate on your behalf.

        • Debbie

        • February 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm
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        ”vERY TRUE kELVIN,
        My husband always is up to date on any new treatment as well as meds and such.
        I should of mentioned that as well;-)
        I also have been an advocate for many friends and family members as you mention and it is a must when in the Hospital.
        And yes in my past with some emergency surgerys and such I was in the hospital with no advocate..”Before I married my husband. So maybe that is another reason why I as you believe that is so important.

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